B. Jay Becker was named ACBL Life Master #6 in 1936 when the rank of Life Master was instituted. The first 10 players were selected because of their record in tournament play.
A World Bridge Federation Grand Master, Becker represented the U.S. seven times in international play over four decades and won two Bermuda Bowls.
In a career that spanned 55 years, Becker won seven Spingolds, eight Reisingers, eight Vanderbilts and the three major ACBL pair events – Life Master Pairs, Blue Ribbon Pairs and NABC Open Pairs.
He won the Fishbein Trophy for best performance at the Summer NABC in 1972. During the years when the Master Invitational Individual was a prestigious major championship, Becker had the best record of any player, winning it in 1937 and 1948 and placing second in 1934, 1941, 1949 and 1955.
Becker won a major NABC title – the Fall Board-a-Match Teams, now the Reisinger – in his first year of tournament play in 1932. In that year he was also runner-up in the Challenge Teams of Four (now the Spingold) and the National Mixed Pairs. He won his first Spingold in 1936. He won his first Vanderbilt in 1944 and his last Vanderbilt in 1981 at the age of 76.
Becker’s performance in the 1981 Vanderbilt was one of the highlights of the Detroit Spring NABC. In leading his team to victory in one of the world’s toughest events, he earned high praise from a teammate who does not praise lightly. “He has an effect on the whole table,” said Edgar Kaplan. “It’s as is he has a muting effect on everyone. He conveys the air of a man who knows he’s going to make what he bids. Opponents don’t double him even when he’s sacrificing.”
In the bidding Becker was the Great Conservative, grinding out good results with a sound and careful style.
He avoided complex conventions, relying instead on impeccable judgment. His remorseless accuracy at the bridge table made him a singular legend of the game – one who was admired and respected for his quiet demeanor and immaculate behavior as well as for his monumental technical skills.
Becker was born in Philadelphia. He trained as a lawyer and took his law degree from Temple Law School in 1929. In 1937 he abandoned law and took up bridge as a full-time career. He never regretted giving up the law career he might have had. “Bridge was my life,” he told the Bulletin a few months before his death. “I never wanted to do anything else.”
Over the years he managed three New York clubs – the Cavendish, the Bridge Whist and the Regency. He was associated with the Card School of New York and directed bridge activities on cruises.
For more than 30 years Becker was a nationally syndicated columnist, having been invited by King Features Syndicate to take over Josephine Culbertson’s column when she died in 1956.
Four years before his death the column began to carry the joint byline of his older son, Steve, and NABC championship and former Bulletin editor.
Becker was a contributor to The Bridge World and the Bulletin and was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. He also became a member of the ACBL Laws Commission in 1954.